Beep beep beep. 5.30am on Friday the 13th. Not a time, certainly on that date, that should be seen by any human! That is, unless, you're super excited and raring to jump in the car to Cornwall for the best Salesforce Community event: Surf Force.
"Surf Force?" I hear you say! "What is that?" In short, it's an epic weekend that combines surfing with Salesforce to tackle one of the biggest issues facing out planet, plastic pollution of our oceans.
This was my first time attending and nVision's debut as a sponsor too. Here's what happened and what you can expect if you come along next year...
Day 1: Getting wet & feeling humble
After a surprisingly pleasant drive down to the South West, I arrived at the venue, the Victoria Legacy Hotel, which occupies a prime spot on the cliffs above Towan beach. After checking in (complete with obligatory swag grab, no Salesforce event is complete without stash), I headed out for lunch with a Salesforce friend from the Pardot user group.
And my word. Cornwall was looking fabulous. The best the weather we could've wished for:
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After scoffing some fish & chips and a pint of "Proper Job", I grabbed my towel and trunks. Time to hit the beach!
In recent months, and particularly since Blue Planet II, awareness and understanding of plastic pollution has grown. I'd heard some of the stats and seen the shocking images & videos online; I'd say that I was conscious of the problem.
It wasn't until we got stuck in on our beach clean and I saw fragments of plastic first hand that I realised quite how big an plastic pollution is.
From first glance, none of us thought we'd have much work to do in cleaning the beach; it actually looked pretty pristine. On closer inspection, this was not the case. Micro-plastics are a danger to all sea life. Some are so small they can't be seen with the naked-eye.
We found hundreds of pieces of broken, fragmented plastic that were tangled in the seaweed. The same seaweed that feeds sea life and oxygenates our air. Cigarette butts were also a huge issue on this beach; they don't go away if you cover them with handful of sand people!!!
Sophie Hellyer, who would speak to us later in the evening, illustrated what I'm trying to explain with this insta post:
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Although we didn't even pin-prick (let alone scratch) the surface of the global problem that afternoon; the beach clean certainly made a big impact all of us that took part.
Since that afternoon, fellow attendees have even climbed mountains after hearing reports of plastic left behind. We all made a plastic-free pledge, some which you can read at the foot of this blog. I now take my reusable water bottle with me when I'm out meetings...it's a great talking point as well keeping me hydrated throughout the day!
Whilst plastic pollution can seem an almost unsolvable issue, we couldn't help but feel good and smile after cleaning the beach:
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Next was time for more fun. Surfing! And, I have to say, if you've never surfed before. Do.
After a quick lesson on the beach, it was time to hit the waves. Raadddd! Awesome dude...
Ok, so the waves weren't huge but they were great for new surfers and for getting comfortable with your board in the water. Did I mention that the sun was shining? I suppose you can't have it all...there certainly isn't a better way of getting to know 50 members of the Salesforce Ohana!
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After wrapping the surfing session, we had time for a quick refresh before our three course dinner, interspersed with three inspirational speakers.
The speakers - Sophie Hellyer, Natalie Fee and Hugo Tagholm - all work with the ocean and have first hand experience of the impacts of plastic pollution.
Sophie spoke to us about how her professional surfing career was turned upside down when she refused to let her sponsor picture her surfing in a bikini. She experienced gender discrimination on a life-changing scale. Her story is all too common; shouldn't life in 2018 be different?
Now championing gender equality in surfing and other sports, Sophie's story inspires because it teaches us to do what we believe is right. To stand up for causes that we feel are important.
Her activism also benefits the ocean. Through the experiences she has daily in the ocean, she educated us about how plastic pollution is present in every surf spot around the globe.
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Sophie's talk fed nicely into Natalie Fee's session: "Less plastic, more joy".
Plastic has been ever-present in early 21st century living. It seems unavoidable - and to certain extent it is - however, Natalie educated us with some good examples of how to say no to plastic and reduce our individual footprint.
"It's just a straw. Said 8 billion people."
From takeaway boxes, to tampon wrappers, water bottles and needless food packaging. Huge percentages of plastic waste ends up in places that it shouldn't.
The most shocking - yet disappointingly unsurprising - thing I learnt is that the UK exports the majority of its recycling to developing countries. Having visited South East Asia last year, how can we keep doing this??? Plastic clogs waterways there. I've been to middle of the ocean in the Galapagos - a highly protected environment - still we saw plastic.
Again, plastic is present the world over. Natalie shared excerpts from this film with us which really does make you realise the true scale of this problem we face:
Hugo Tagholm from Surfers Against Sewage spoke about the success his organisation has had in Cornwall over the past 30 years. Their campaigning began in 1990 when the waters off Cornwall were so polluted with sewage it was unsafe to swim most days. Working with local water companies, who've clean up their act, 69.5 per cent of the UK's coastal waters met the 'excellent' standard of the bathing water directive in 2016.
With that, their attention has turned to plastic too. Surfers Against Sewage organise beach cleans across the country and find that members of coastal communities are always keen to help. Whilst people are always keen to get involved, its challenging to track the progress of beach cleans.
So, Hugo raised some questions that fuelled discussion on how the tech community - and Salesforce - can help answer:
- How can people let others know that they've just cleaned a beach so it'd best to focus efforts on the next beach down?
- 38.4 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK, how do we measure where most of these end up?
- How can we make better sense of the data collected by Surfers Against Sewage to combat plastic pollution?
Enter: Day Two of Surf Force...
DAY 2: Salesforce Sessions: How can Salesforce apply itself to help the ocean?
The second day of Surf Force saw speakers from across the ecosystem educate, inform and inspire the group on how the platform could be used to help us tackle our polluted seas.
I'll leave you to explore the sessions in detail on our content hub. Suffice to say, Salesforce can make a significant and positive impact on plastic pollution in our oceans. Highlights for me included:
- Harnessing Einstein to analyse drone footage of beaches to monitor the amount of pollution.
- Creating an app with Lightning to help put communities in touch and log when a beach clean has been.
- Collecting data on the types of pollutants by asking beach walkers to take photos of litter
Surf Force is the best work event I have had the pleasure of attending. Writing this summary nearly a month after the weekend we spent in Cornwall, I know that my personal behaviour surrounding plastic has already changed. I avoid single use plastic where I can, taking a water bottle out the house certainly helps and it's also encouraged others to do the same. Both candidates and clients have noted my water bottle on meetings and it opens a great discussion about how tech can help against plastics.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to the organisers: Shaun, Marcelle, Kerry, Scott & Mick. You're inspiring lots of us to take action for the better of our planet. Thank you.
This won't be the last Surf Force that I attend. nVision Talent were proud to sponsor the event in the year that we opened out UK office and we are now looking to support the #techagainstplastics cause in other ways through our pledge 1% initiative.
Surf Force 2018 was so good, I literally couldn't pull myself away. This snap from an extra day I spent in Cornwall sums up how I felt after a weekend with the Ohana in Newquay:
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